the wrong guy

X was spooked. X was a spook, the spy kind, not the black kind or the dead kind: the asset kind, in the heart of enemy editorial territory, the offices of Ramparts, where he tipped off the Agency to upcoming revelations he was powerless to stop. Ramparts thought him a hip, eager man, ready day or night to go the extra mile, lick the final stamp. His mother, whose maiden name was Wulf, had been murdered by black Africans under mysterious circumstances while accompanying his father on a 1948 vacation trip to the sub-Sahara for the newly-formed Office of Special Operations.

So. When X received an anonymous envelope at Ramparts containing a single sheet of paper on which was drawn an iconic and sinister wolf’s head and captioned “The Bantu Wolf Awaits,” he freaked, took a week off, tried to shake the willies with hot tubs, vodka in hot tubs, sex in hot tubs. Nada. Bought a do-it-yourself crime kit and dusted the sheet for fingerprints; none. Beamed it with ultraviolet light, no clues. The Wulf, er, Wolf, was drawn with fine art pen on cheap mimeo paper. He burned it in a tin can on Stinson Beach at dawn. The willies dug in.

Back at the office, an anonymous manila envelope was laid atop the pile of mail on X’s desk. Holding it with a paper napkin, X slit the envelope with an X-acto knife they used for layout and paste-up, slid the contents onto his desk. Four sheets of photocopied checks from the Castle Bank and Trust in the Bahamas, made out to James O’Shea, Cathy Cohen, and the Movement Liberation Front. Real beauts, even in flecky black and white.

Plus a photocopied memorandum TO: Paul Helliwell, Castle Bank, FROM: Richard Ober, SOG, authorizing the sending of said checks on a monthly basis to said O’Shea and Cohen from account 32-49866 dedicated to payment of covert intelligence assets. The initials RO in pen after Ober’s name. Dated May 5, 1968.

How did X react? Take the fine chain mail of Beowulf’s body armor, implant it in your brain and hook it to a truck battery, that's how. He replaced the sheets in the envelope using the napkin, checked the postmark, indeed it said Nassau, and the stamps, Bahamanian, and sat tapping his heels on the floor till his calf muscles seized up.

The Bantu Wolf Awaits.

No way was he going to touch this stuff. X knew, KNEW, it was about him, not about the names inside the envelope, a gaping wolfmouth of temptation. When he stared at the envelope long enough he could see TRAP written all over it. He’d give it to Lester Krup, hotshot exposer of CIA money trails (anyway, if this is real, am I supposed to expose our own agents?). Krup could run it to ground (and if it’s false, is it Agency-false or anti-Agency false?) Make sure Krup gets all the credit and everything coming to him from the Bantu Wolf. Awaits.

After lunch, he handed it off to Krup, employing the phrases hot stuff, Pulitzer Prize, and enemy within. Lester held the sheets up to the window overlooking Broadway, detected a watermark, said, “looks interesting,” in the tone of a young man who’s seen it all, counterfeit and cashable. The documents gave him stomach cramps.


That night Krup meditated, legs in lotus position on the black-ice floor, back braced by energy emanating from the pedestal bearing the amphora from Crete, eyes veiled, counting down from ten, slow breaths deep in the thorax, till his eyeballs flickered on alpha. A male figure appeared, stood by the red couch in the bay window staring toward Sts. Peter and Paul.

— Why are you sad? Krup asked the man, whom he took to be Jimmy.

— I’m too far from women, said the figure.

— Are you Jimmy O’Shea?

— No. I’m his aura.

— Do you work for the CIA?

— They never asked, said the shade, who Krup saw held his copy of Bikers and Bitches. — I mighta sold out for a Mercedes 230SL.

Krup checked the bottom shelf. The spine of B and B was cracked. A real CIA agent would have left behind an aura of hostility, not a self-deprecating joke. He would have shown some sign of hating me, drunk the bottle of Montrachet. Jimmy left his own cheap stuff half-empty in the fridge.


“Yes, we’ve been cashing those checks,” said Cathy. “Is there something funny with them?”

“Maybe,” said Krup.

“How do you know about them?”

“I’ll get back to you.”

Next step, call the CIA.